A record number of healthcare facilities across the United States are committed to providing equal care to LGBT patients, according to a report released this week by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
The report details the results of the Healthcare Equality Index, an annual survey-based tool used to evaluate hospitals and healthcare facilities on their commitment to LGBT-inclusive healthcare. All 718 participating hospitals were evaluated on four major documentable criteria: patient non-discrimination policies specifically inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, equal visitation policies, LGBT-inclusive employment nondiscrimination policies, and training of key staff members and administrators in LGBT patient-centered care.
This year, for the first time, facilities in all 50 states responded to the survey, meaning that there isn't a single state in the nation without at least one hospital willing to publicly commit to LGBT equality.
One major reason for this milestone is robust participation by the Veteran's Health Administration, the largest integrated healthcare system in the country. A whopping eighty percent of VA medical centers participated in 2013, a mere two years after the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
At a press conference Thursday at the Department of Veteran's Affairs in Washington, D.C., Shane Snowdon -- HRC's Health and Aging Program Director and the report's author -- noted that the survey results reflected "the sea change in our culture."
Snowdon further pointed out that 2013 saw a huge jump in trans-specific protections. The percentage of participating facilities explicitly banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity, for example, jumped from 76% to 87%. Just three years ago, only 29% included such protections. The HEI 2013 also recorded a large increase in trans-inclusive employment protections: 85% of participants documented that they ban gender identity-related discrimination in employment, up from 75% last year, 64% in 2011, and 32% in 2010.
Also noteworthy is the fact that the HEI directly provided training on LGBT healthcare to more than 4,000 hospital staff members and administrators across the country. 80% of responding facilities enrolled employees in this staff training, greatly increasing the likelihood that when an LGBT person enters the healthcare system at a participating hospital, not only will they receive equal treatment, but they'll encounter a health professional who's been educated about their specific needs.
To view the full HEI 2013 report, click here. Be sure to check for HEI-participating organizations in your state, and if your local facility isn't on the HEI yet, let them know that you'll be watching for their name on next year's list. as evidence of their commitment to LGBT-inclusive healthcare.
Finally, as LGBT people know far too well, hospitals are often where we are at our most vulnerable. That's why it's especially important, whenever and wherever possible, to consider a facility's commitment (or lack thereof) to LGBT-inclusive healthcare when choosing a care provider for ourselves and our families. The 2013 Healthcare Equality Index better equips LGBTs and our allies to do just that.